Sir Walter Scott Commemorative Salt?


By Derek Fry


    
Lot 76 in the March 2003 Postal Auction (The Finial; Feb/Mar 2003, page 44) was a salt spoon with twisted stem and statuette finial marked in the bowl for George Unite of Birmingham with the lower case Gothic 'g' of 1881/82. It was further described by "…the finial of a Scotsman holding a book, almost certainly celebrating the 50th anniversary of Sir Walter Scott's death." I have an almost identical spoon, which casts some doubt on this suggestion. The notable difference is that my spoon has the Gothic 'd' Date Letter for 1878/79 i.e. some 4 years before the 50th anniversary of the death of Sir Walter Scott (1771 - 1832). It seems improbable that George Unite was making commemorative spoons that far in advance.

I am not knowledgeable about costume but the enlarged views (figure actually about 22 mm tall) of the front and back of the finial of my spoon appear to show a ruff at the neck and a draped, flowing robe worn over pleated knee breeches and what might be calf length boots. Alternatively the legs could be encased in thigh length boots. Is this period dress that can attributed specifically to Scotland or simply artistic licence producing a stylised costume more or less appropriate to the pose which, I agree, could be construed as a literary figure or orator?

It could be that George Unite designed this spoon to be sold in commemoration of any such character as the occasion arose and the 1881/2 production was for Sir Walter Scott - if so who or what might my earlier spoon have commemorated? Alternatively, it may have been produced as just a decorative pseudo-apostle finial. Do any other members have examples of this spoon with other Date Letters to help ascertain for what period it was in production?

Postscript!

Only ten days after I had despatched the above contribution to our Editor I was at a West Country antiques fair and happened upon two more examples of spoons by George Unite with twisted stems and this distinctive cast finial - the pair of small teaspoons depicted here (Although, at only 11 cm in length, they might be coffee spoons). Their Date Letter is the lower case Gothic 'q' for Birmingham1890/91which reinforces my suggestion that this design was not produced specifically to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Sir Walter Scott's death. However, it does raise the question of what range of spoon sizes George Unite produced in this style? The finials on these tea/coffee spoons are exactly the same size as that on the salt spoon suggesting, perhaps, that only these small spoons will be found in this design but it would be interesting to know if anyone is aware of larger examples or, indeed, other small ones - e.g. other condiment spoons or anything to indicate that both tea and coffee sizes were produced.


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The Finial, April/May 2003


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